September 2019 brought not only a new academic year for our schools, academies and multi-academy trusts, but also a brand new Ofsted framework to get to grips with.
So, what changed? The new framework has made significant adjustments to how schools are inspected by Ofsted but the largest change has been to the judgement categories.
How are schools rated?
The four new categories, replacing the previous five, are Quality of Education, Behaviour and Attitudes, Personal Development and Leadership and Management.
The highest weighting of these is Quality of Education and this is now a key focus for inspections. Essentially inspectors are now asking themselves:
- ‘Does the curriculum remain as broad as possible for as long as possible?’
- Are students still learning Geography in Year 6 or just the information they need to know for their SATs?
- Do secondary schools offer a two-year KS3 so students can start their GCSEs earlier?
It has recently been reported by TES that schools running KS3 over three years are more than twice as likely to be rated as good or outstanding, under the new framework.
Behaviour and Attitudes and Personal Development are judged in a similar way to the previous framework but the reports are much shorter and go into much less detail about these areas. Leadership and Management is also a much smaller focus in the written report than previously, but inspections often have a large focus on the leaders’ relationship with parents and the community, including Parent View responses. This means getting your communications right is essential.
What do education leaders think?
A quick conversation with any Headteacher will show you that the new Ofsted framework has divided camps across the education sector, with some feeling the focus on curriculum celebrates long forgotten subjects and others feeling it is unfair for inspectors with no subject expertise to make judgements on their curriculum. One interesting article in The Guardian spoke with several Outstanding primary schools who have all failed Ofsted inspections under the new framework. Another recent TES article also shared NAHT’s concerns that the new framework had ‘shattered the confidence of new and experienced teachers and left staff needing counselling.’
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and many of the academies we work with have had a positive experience working under the new framework. Academies that would have struggled under the previous framework, which was predominantly focused on data, have achieved the Good Ofsted rating they deserve for the breadth of their curriculum following the changes.
Don’t keep outcomes to yourself
So, once you’ve had your first inspection under the new framework, how do you communicate it with your community? In terms of communicating the outcomes of reports, the shorter reports have brought both opportunities and challenges. With less information to work with and more concise sentences, reports can be very black and white, with either mostly positive or mostly negative statements. This can make it harder for schools to pull out key phrases that celebrate the positives in a report that otherwise might be conceived as negative but does make it shorter and easier to share with parents.
Our biggest piece of advice would be to always be open and honest about your Ofsted report. Try to get in touch with the press proactively by sending them a press release. This should celebrate the positives and address any negatives in your report while getting across your key messages. It is also important to communicate the news early with parents those people connected to the school, like local councillors or MPs. And if it’s really good news, we recommend a short burst of Facebook advertising to let everyone know just how great you are!
If you’ve got an Ofsted inspection coming up and you’re starting to think about how to communicate it with your community, please get in touch with us on 01733 207340 or email our Director of PR Ryan Hyman.